With 3.85 million tourists visiting Napa Valley each year, Napa has wine tasting down to a science. There are over 500 wineries in the Napa Valley, however, what you might NOT know is that horses helped build its wine legacy. Dating back to the 1840s, horses were the primary form of transport for Napa residents building their vineyards.
So naturally, horseback riding in Napa is one of the most authentic experiences to have. Besides, what’s more relaxing than a trail ride followed by a wine tasting? Here are some of my recommendations for ranch and horseback riding in Napa experiences.
Horseback Riding in Napa with Wine Tasting
In order to go horseback riding or wine tasting, guests drive out to Combsville, a relatively new American Viticultural Area (AVA) just east of downtown Napa. Coombsville is the place to go to find the real, authentic Napa. It’s where you’ll learn how to do Napa like a local.
Horseback riding in Shadybrook Estate
There are plenty of options on how to spend your time at Shadybrook Estate, a historic ranch and vineyard site deep in the Napa valley. If you are not into wine tasting, join a 30 minute or 50 minute trail ride around the 25 acre property. Known as Rapp Ranch, home to cutting horses, the winery and stables are now owned by the Alison and David Alkosser family.
During my time here I opted for the Ultimate Ranch Experience. This consisted of a 50 minute Napa Valley trail ride and wine tasting. The ride is designed for beginners or equestrians with little riding experience. Once checked in at the barn, guests sign a waiver, grab a helmet and follow the wrangler to the outdoor arena (weather permitting.) If weather is inclement Rapp Ranch has an indoor riding arena and guests may opt for a riding lesson.
“We want you to feel like you are stepping back in time and experiencing our Napa,” said Rachel Strum of Shadybrook Estate Winery. “Napa has become a storm; a hurricane of people being pushed through tastings. We want to be the eye of that storm. The peace. To bring back the true art of winemaking and hospitality.”
Horseback riding at vineyard trail ride
On my visit, trail rides went out twice daily. I selected the first ride of the morning as there is a better chance to spot wildlife such as deer and rabbits. Rides are walking only and range from 1-8 riders, in addition to the trail guide. My wrangler shared her knowledge of the Coombsville area, the horses and some history about the estate winery.
What better experience to ride beside the vineyards and then sit and taste the wines. Afterall, Napa history dates back to the 1840’s where the horse played a significant role in the wine industry. You might even say the vineyards were built on the backs of horses.
Shadybrook Estate wine tasting
After our vineyard trail ride I strolled over to the patio garden lounge overlooking Rapp Ranch Vineyards. My Ultimate Ranch Experience included 4 wines, as well as an assortment of cheese, charcuterie, fruit and nuts. My knowledgeable host explained that the Coombsville AVA is about 10 degrees cooler than the surrounding area, resulting in even wine grape ripening. To my surprise, this appellation is one of the last to harvest in Napa Valley.
I was impressed with the Shadybrook Cabernet Sauvignon and their lovely Pinot Noir. The wines are more complex than Rapp Ranch, their secondary label, and pair well with food. The estate holds an anniversary dinner every May for winery members and a Fall wine release party each October.
From my wine tasting experience and the looks of their Instagram account, these folks know a thing or two about wine country entertaining!
Need to know:
Riders must be at least 12 years of ages for vineyard trail rides. Guests must be 21 years of age and older to participate in wine tasting activities. No dogs are allowed on the property. It is recommended that guests participating in horseback riding wear long pants and closed-toed shoes. Cowboy boots are available for rent and all riders are required to wear an equine-approved riding helmet that will be supplied for your trail ride.
Thinking about getting engaged or looking for a romantic location in Napa wine country? Let Napa Valley Trail Rides in on your celebration and they’ll arrange the Ultimate Romance package for you at the winemaker’s overlook aka the Proposal Spot. You’ll ride right by this garden with a wooden bench and a view of the vineyards and Coombsville foothills. FYI, wine tasting takes place after your horseback ride for an additional fee. No drinking while riding.
If You Go:
Napa Valley Trail Rides (707) 255-5661
100 Rapp Lane
Napa, California 94558
Napa Valley Trail Rides and Wine Tasting article, all photos and video by Travel Writer Nancy D. Brown. I was a guest of Napa Valley Trail Rides and Shadybrook Estate Winery. Don’t forget to mention Writing Horseback when you book your Napa Valley Trail Rides and wine tasting experience.